Women who reported eating a diet rich in iron were 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) than women who consumed lower amounts, in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and Harvard. It is one of the first to evaluate whether dietary mineral intake is associated with PMS development.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and Harvard assessed mineral intake in approximately 3,000 women. Participants were free from PMS at baseline.
Women in the study completed three food frequency questionnaires over the 10-year study period. After 10 years, 1,057 women were diagnosed with PMS and 1,968 remained free from PMS. Adjusting for calcium intake and other factors, the researchers then compared previous mineral intake reported by the women diagnosed with PMS with that of women who had few or no menstrual symptoms.
Women who consumed the most non-heme iron, the form found primarily in plant foods and in supplements, had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing PMS than women who consumed the lowest amount of non-heme iron.
The researchers also saw some indication that high intake of zinc was associated with lower risk. In general, results for minerals from food sources and minerals from supplements were similar.
These study findings suggest that women at risk for PMS should make sure they are meeting the RDA for non-heme iron and zinc.
The level of iron intake at which we saw a lower risk of PMS, roughly greater than 20 mg per day, is higher than the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for premenopausal women, which is 18 mg per day. This amount may be obtained in 1 to 1.5 servings per day of iron-fortified cereal or with supplements. (Vegans need 34 mg of iron per day.)
Since a high iron intake may have adverse health consequences, women should avoid consuming more than the safe upper daily intake of 45 mg per day unless otherwise recommended by a physician.
Iron may be related to PMS because it is involved in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.
The level of zinc intake that was linked to a lower risk of PMS was greater than 15 mg per day, was also higher than current recommendations of 8 mg per day. Since high zinc intake may also have adverse health consequences, women should avoid consuming more than the safe upper daily intake of 40 mg per day unless recommended by a physician.
Intake of other minerals, including magnesium, copper, sodium and manganese were not associated with PMS risk in this study.
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 26, 2013
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